Rutgers Hillel Statement Regarding Prof. Mazen Adi

The revelation that Rutgers University hired a former spokesperson for the genocidal Syrian government of Bashar al-Assad to teach, of all things, international human rights law, has become a national embarrassment to the University. Not only was he an official in a regime that has murdered hundreds of thousands of civilians, including gassing entire cities, he was the spokesman for that regime, rationalizing its crimes before the UN and the world.

There are no doubt, Arab, Yazidi, Druze, or other students at Rutgers whose own relatives were murdered by the government for which Adi was a spokesman and apologist. How must they and their families feel knowing this man is now a Rutgers ‘educator?’

In addition, his extremist and false statements about Jews, both in and out of the classroom, have caused outrage throughout the Jewish community. Rutgers Hillel has received numerous messages from students, parents, alumni, and concerned community members asking how a man of this character can be allowed to teach at our State University.

Adi has publicly declared support for the racist conspiracy theory, purported by another Rutgers professor, Jasbir Puar, that the Israeli army harvests organs from Palestinians and sells their body parts.  There is no basis in truth for this modern version of a medieval, anti-Semitic blood libel. There are Israeli and Jewish students at Rutgers who themselves or whose family members served in the Israel Defense Forces. How must they and their families feel knowing this man is now a Rutgers ‘educator?’

The university is already reeling from revelations of the vile online antisemitism of Prof. Michael Chikindas, and is investigating what action can be taken in his case. But each of these Rutgers professors: Chikindas, Puar and Adi, gives voice to traditional racist, anti-Jewish tropes. They each reflect and contribute to trends in our society in which the expression of extremism and prejudice have become common place and even acceptable.

These trends must be stopped. These actions must not be tolerated. These professors must be held accountable.

How can any Jewish or LGBTQ student feel comfortable taking a class with Chikindas? We know of at least one student who has been forced to drop his class, in fear.  How can any Israeli or Jewish student feel comfortable taking a class with Puar or Adi?  How can any Arab, Yazidi, Druze, or other student whose family has suffered in the Syrian civil war, or who cares about human rights, take a class with Adi?

We certainly believe in free speech and academic freedom. But the hiring of such professors has brought national shame and embarrassment to our university, with negative media coverage across the spectrum, from NPR to FoxNews. It contributes to a feeling among many that universities, as a whole, have lost their moral compass.

We know that Rutgers has a moral compass. This is an institution that recently renamed a residential building in honor of Sojourner Truth, the renowned abolitionist who, as a child, was owned by relatives of Rutgers’ first president. Hiring Mazen Adi was like hiring the spokesperson for Jefferson Davis – worse, because the moral crimes of the Syrian government which Adi rationalized away are being committed right now, before our eyes, while the whole world is aware of them.

We call upon the university leadership to condemn Adi’s statements as the mouthpiece of the murderous Syrian regime and to investigate the process by which a man like Mazen Adi was hired in the first place.  This should be done for the sake of our university’s reputation, for the moral education of our students, and because it is the just and right thing to do.

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